Whenever the phone rings at Shenon Law, we treat all callers as individuals who may be interested in forming the attorney-client relationship with our firm. This means we ask a lot of questions that might seem somewhat odd or invasive: When did this happen? Are you the business owner? Who are the other players? What is the amount at issue? What is your last name? Did you have an attorney already help you in the past?
Our call handling aligns with California’s new Rule of Professional Conduct (“RPC”) 1.18 which recently set out a more defined universe of who is a potential client and when the confidential relationship is created with an attorney.
Note: RPC 1.18 also sets out conflict of interest guidelines for an attorney concerning a current client and a prospective client. This article does not cover the Rule to this depth. This blog describes some of what we experience at Shenon Law with a potential client at the front line – in their discussions with support staff or paralegals of the firm.
As Shenon Law legal assistants we are committed to supporting the attorneys in their pledge to the State Bar and duties to the client. We apply that same principle to first time callers who have a good faith intention to seek legal advice or representation. We know it is a thoughtful exchange when sharing your needs for legal services with a stranger. We conduct our work with the highest confidentiality. As a rule of thumb, we take measures to preserve confidential or sensitive information received from you well before the attorney-client agreement is signed. The State Bar Rule states that an attorney may not use or reveal confidential information obtained through the consultation in any manner under RPC 1.18. The Shenon Law support team do not discuss any matters outside work or any confidential information originating from potential client calls. This is part of our routine operation at Shenon Law. Our callers should also be aware that the lawyers we work under in our firm adhere to RPC 5.3, to ensure that our everyday conduct is compatible with their obligations as an attorney. We regularly discuss the techniques of handling callers, documents, and private matters of our clients to ensure these standards are being met. Your concerns carry weight with us and we’re sensitive to this at Shenon Law.
Why do we ask the questions we do? Partly it’s a soundcheck. If anything sounds familiar to case matters already under our umbrella, this could trigger a conflict of interest review as required by State Bar rules – in our calls we must determine any conflict or associated interest with an existing client. It is also most important to determine if the caller’s subject matter matches Shenon Law’s expertise area of law. (ex. we don’t take family law or criminal law for example, you want a different professional for those issues)
Our support staff create a summary of the facts from your call for the lawyer’s review. We then book a mutual time on calendar for you with the attorney for your free phone consultation. It is the best use of your time and the attorney’s time to have this brief snapshot of your initial call to Shenon Law. The attorney will start an analysis when they receive the notes from your call. This gives you the advantage of an attorney reflecting on your legal needs, your business structure, applicable law, or similar issues in their past experience as a launching point in your free telephone consultation with an attorney. It is more productive to have your first contact with the attorney backed up with intake notes than have your time eroded on the call collecting basic facts. This business model allows the attorneys to focus on servicing our existing client matters to the fullest while providing respect and attention to potential client callers.
There will soon be a growing venue for online legal service delivery models in California. The State Bar is reviewing legal technology and access to justice essentially by bot-expansion. In September 2018, before the new RPC came into effect, the State Bar approved a task force to review the coming influx of artificial intelligence in legal offerings. (Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services “ATILS”) They are reviewing a ‘safe harbor’ for tech-vendors to deliver in the legal arena in new ways while avoiding penalties for the Unauthorized Practice of Law, one of the foundations protecting legal consumers. The governing bodies are scratching their heads with this prom date appearing at the door, with an ATILS subcommittee musing:
“Just as lawyers submit to a moral character review, if a legal technology provider wants to undertake activities that would traditionally be considered the practice of law, they should be screened to protect the public from similar harms.”
[Source: State Bar of California Open Session Agenda Item – July 11, 2019/ State Bar Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services Report-Request to Circulate Tentative Recommendations for Public Comment/Attachment H. http://bit.ly/386T3Eq]
It is unlikely that State regulation will keep all the snakes out of the weeds. At Shenon Law we believe that your legal protection is best handled by the human interface. Assignment of law firm pledges in the intake process to AI is a risk in the marketplace for exposure to legal-villainy, or at minimum, new methods of client solicitation creating a further delay in getting your legal needs resolved. We advise you to avoid shortcuts and put your concerns in the hands of a qualified business lawyer or contract law attorney at Shenon Law Group. Go through the few minutes of intake with our support staff whether by our website form (and we will call you back) or directly by phone at 855-4-SHENON. Our time and analysis with any potential client is a true moment of full attention to our caller’s needs. This is the kind of algorithm you can trust to resolve your legal and business law concerns, with Shenon Law as your default for law firm expertise.